Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Deep Purple - Now What?! (2013)

A month before Black Sabbath released their much-anticipated 19th studio album 13, Deep Purple released their own 19th album entitled Now What?!. Of course, I don't think Deep Purple's newest was as anticipated and I don't think it has made quite the same splash. But I don't think you should just write off this album because it doesn't grab the headlines. Black Sabbath certainly deserve to have a number one album with 13 and I'm there cheering along with everyone else, but I don't think folks should sleep on Deep Purple's album. 

I've already done my Deep Purple list and while I'd keep the order mostly the same with the exception of maybe dropping Rapture of the Deep a few spots and raising Perfect Strangers a few spots, I don't really have any issues with the list. It's close enough for government work. But where would Now What?! fit in? I think it would have to be top ten. I love Purpendicular and this album is easily their best album since that one, but I'd even go so far as to say it could be even better because it feels more like a Purple album than Purpendicular. The past few albums have been really good for showcasing the virtuoso talent of Steve Morse, but Now What?! is a good showcase for the modern Deep Purple as a whole. Ian Gillan's vocals sound better than they did on Rapture of the Deep and the band sounds much more energetic as well. With rocking songs like Hell to Pay (listen to Don Airey and Steve Morse play off each other while Glover thumps that bass!), Out of Hand, and Uncommon Man (listen to that intro!), it's easy to see why Purple (throughout most of its incarnations) has stuck around all these years: they just have that ability to craft listenable songs. 

Above and Beyond has a decidedly Led Zeppelin-esque intro and then Steve Morse starts an AC/DC style riff and then Ian Gillan and Don Airey bring it home in a fitting tribute to the fallen Jon Lord. 

Of course, the album as whole is dedicated to Jon Lord and you can hear that Don Airey really brings it on this album. It's a fitting performance on a fitting tribute.

But, let's face it, this album is all about Vincent Price. I really dig all of the songs to a certain degree, but Vincent Price is the best song they've done since Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming. That choir background and the eerie horror movie sounds as the guitar plays... and then Ian Gillan starts singing. There's a reason it's the last song on the album, folks. Listen to this song if you haven't yet. It's worth buying the album for (although I don't approve of you doing so because the other songs are good and worth listening to, but if you did then I wouldn't blame you). 

Naturally, this album isn't Deep Purple in Rock and it doesn't have a Smoke on the Water type of hit on it, but for this album to tank out in America... Man, sometimes I think I should move to Germany, after all. The album even charted higher in France. And if France can put it in the top 25 then why the hell can't we in America? 

Some people have no shame. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Roku 3

So I was at Wal-Mart the other day, trying to figure out how to connect my internet to my blu-ray player. I ended up not doing that when I saw that little Roku box nesting in one of the aisles. My blu-ray player can only do so much, but this Roku box seems to stream Amazon Instant Video, Netflix, Funimation, and Crunchyroll and a lot more. I don't have a Netflix account yet, but I love anime and being able to watch Crunchyroll and Funimation shows on my big HD TV instead on my computer screen? Fuhgedaboudit! Between the two anime sites, a premium membership comes to be twenty bucks a month. Not too bad. Of course, the premium memberships aren't mandatory. After paying the initial hundred bucks for the device, the rest is free unless you want a Netflix account or premium memberships or whatever. So I guess this Roku 3 is a gateway to spending even more money, but the darn thing is pretty handy. So I still say it's a win/win.

This Roku 3 device is really, really small, too. I'm talking about it being so small I can hold it in the palm of one hand and wrap my fingers around it. And the instruction booklet says it hogs up less energy than a nightlight so it's no big deal that it doesn't have an on/off switch.

This device is wireless, too. You don't even need a dongle or anything like that. Just plug it into your electrical outlet and plug the HDMI cable into your TV and let your Roku do the rest. It'll search out wireless signals no different than a Kindle and all you have to do is enter your password for your router. From there you can do whatever you want.

The Roku remote is really simplistic so there isn't much to say about it, but the remote has a built-in earphone jack and comes with a purple set of earphones. I don't like those purple-looking earphones and I prefer headphones, but it's really cool to think you can plug your phones into the remote and whatever sound you were hearing from your TV you are now solely hearing in your phones. Pretty cool. With the phones being plugged into the remote you can walk around or go to the fridge in the next room while still listening to your favorite Pandora radio station on your Roku box. Again, pretty cool.

I wasn't too sure about this device when I bought it, but it really does work.

As to why I bought a device so expensive that I wasn't sure about... well, yesterday I woke up at 3:30 in the morning so I could open the store at 5:30, worked essentially a ten hour shift during which I suffered a long stretch of boredom followed by a long stretch of getting my butt whipped, I made it home for a shower, went out to eat at Pizza Hut with the folks, and then went to Wal-Mart some 14 hours after waking up that morning. I was tired and probably not thinking too clearly.

But hey, so far it has worked out.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Kindle Fire HD

The fact that I have a Kindle is maybe proof that I am either losing my mind or slowly coming to grips with the fact that the amount of room I have for books, DVDs, and Blu-rays is finite. I just have too many books and not enough room. But I can't just get rid of something without replacing it. Having tons of books on Kindle is little different than having tons of books on the bookshelf, in the television stand, and on the top of the dresser. 

I need to do the same thing with my music by getting some sort of music player that can be portable but also can hook up to a stereo system. Of course, I'm not sure what people play their music on these days. My Kindle Fire HD can play music in my Cloud Player on its speakers without a problem and I can listen to those tunes while I read whichever book I choose or surf the net and check my Facebook or my email. I also can watch movies, too. 

But I wouldn't exactly call the Kindle Fire HD a music or a movie player. It's handy and has a good picture if you want to stream an episode of the original Star Trek series for free via Amazon Prime, but it's got really small speakers and no place for headphones. I wouldn't really call this a substitute for a music player or an HD TV. Which is fine with me; I got the Kindle to downsize the amount of physical books I have and not for the sound quality. My Kindle's music and movie playing abilities are like whipped topping, though. And who the hell complains about whipped topping? 

With my Kindle Fire I can play around with how the book I'm reading is formatted. I can change the background of the book to black, sepia, or white. I can change fonts and mark passages and even tweet certain passages. All very cool stuff. 

I can store photos on here from Facebook or Twitter, but I'm not sure how it would all be organized. I imagine that after a while things would get very cluttered. And I don't really want to store photos on here because I got this for books. But the option is there. 

The weird thing about these devices is how much they can dissuade a person from actually reading despite the fact that these things are actually "e-readers." There's lots of distractions with the internet in the palm of your hands and the capability to play games or add silly apps and whatnot. I guess it all depends on how much you are really sold on the idea of reading something from what is essentially a high-tech toy. But really, there's distractions whether or not you have a Kindle so I guess it doesn't really make much of a difference. 

But seriously, think about this: you can look up porn on this device. Not that I've tried, of course. But it makes sense that if you can if you can YouTube then you can BoobTube, too. And this thing has a long memory so I wouldn't want someone seeing something like that pop up on the extremely likely chance that I want to show off my new Kindle everyone I know. 

But, again, there's distractions. 

I'm very glad I purchased this Kindle Fire HD and I need to stock it up with some killer books, but now I have to choose whether or not I want to read a physical book or an ebook that I've already had uploaded. Choosing something to read was hard before I got a Kindle. Now it's going to be a real pain. XP

I'm still going to experiment with this thing and see what's what. I haven't tried taking it outside of the house yet. Might try that once I try to forget just much it cost me to get it and come to terms with my inherent need to treat this like a prized relic. Honestly, I do want to keep this in great condition because I can't imagine leaving it in a hot car or something. But I do need to figure out how this thing acts on the road. 

P.S. - If any of you know of decent portable devices on which I can listen to music without having to carry a bunch of CD's with me then I'd love to hear suggestions. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

InuYasha and InuYasha: The Final Act

***If you have not watched the original series of InuYasha and plan to then please go away or I shall say "Ni" to you! Here there be spoilers!***

InuYasha is an anime comprised of 167 episodes and it's primary story is that of a girl named Kagome who can travel back 500 years into the past of Japan to fight demons. There she meets an ill-tempered and immature half-demon named InuYasha, a cursed and lecherous monk named Miroku, and a headstrong demon slayer named Sango. All of them fight against the evil and seemingly unkillable demon named Naraku who uses deception to achieve his own ends. 

Containing enough filler and enough repetitious subject matter to make the creators of the Dragonball Z or Bleach look ingenuitive, InuYasha is about fifty episodes too long. It's almost grueling to try and watch all of it and by seasons four and five you really wonder if there is ever an end in sight.  The entire show you hear about how evil Naraku is and how Kagome and InuYasha and Kikyo feel about each other and after about five seasons of this you just want the damn thing to end one way or the other. At one point I just wanted InuYasha's usually evil brother Sesshomaru to show up and just kill everyone including Naraku and the main characters. Maybe not the greatest ending but at least it'd be a freaking end.

When you finally make it to episode 167... you essentially get a thank you note for watching and a promise that they'll keep searching for Naraku and will one day destroy him.

I've met Jehovah's Witnesses who expressed more subtlety about wasting my time. 

But when InuYasha: Final Act came out I breathed a bit easier. When I found out it was only 26 episodes I let out a big sigh of relief. The show is over and the ending won't take me half a year to get through, either. All the time I spent watching those episodes is not completely wasted! 

I must say that, even though this show can't really be seen without having seen the most of the episodes of the original show, InuYasha: The Final Act is easily superior in terms of animation and storytelling. The animation is better because it is quite a bit newer and it seems to be made perfectly for HD. The storytelling is a vast improvement because we cut right to the chase and all of that filler crap is done away with. From the first few episodes the characters we know and generally like or even dislike start to die off like flies. The entire show is basically a bunch of characters dying or parting ways. It's great. 


The whole love triangle between Kikyo, InuYasha, and Kagome is finally put to rest. Sesshomaru and InuYasha settle their differences (more or less). Koga finally gets written out of the story. Miroku and Sango finally get hitched. 

And Naraku gets killed. Everyone knew it would happen. It was just a matter of seeing how it happened. 

***Okay, no spoilers from here on out***

While I felt that the ultimate ending to this show was too much of a crowd-pleaser, I still think the show was very good and it made me view the original InuYasha show just a bit better since they are technically one in the same. 

Despite all of its obvious flaws, InuYasha is one of those epics that are must-see because of its reputation, but it's the sequel series InuYasha: The Final Act that makes the show really worth watching. 

I will say that the final battle against Naraku recalls the fight against Majin Buu in Dragonball Z in which our heroes enter the primary villain and do battle against him (and multiple incarnations of him) for the purpose of rescuing someone. It's a neat concept and I doubt DBZ has the market cornered on that concept, but that show was the first thing I thought of when I saw everyone entering Naraku's tremendously large spider demon form. 

Overall, I'm satisfied with the show. I just wish the original series had been this streamlined, but what's done is done. A great ending to a decent series. 

P.S. -  I also should note that two of the english voice actors are different in InuYasha: The Final Act. Kira Tozer replaced Moneca Stori as the voice of Kagome and while this change is noticeable I didn't really mind. The more interesting change to me is Michael Daingerfield taking over the Sesshomaru character from David Kaye. Sesshomaru is my favorite character from the show and hearing his voice for the first time in the new series was a bit jarring. It's similar enough, but I wish his voice could have stayed the same. Daingerfield did okay, though. So I guess I have no real complaints. More like wishful thinking, I guess. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

NOS4A2 could very well be the best book Stephen King has never written. Joe Hill is a master. Heart-Shaped Box and Horns and 20th Century Ghosts showed me small glimpses, but this book with the weird title and cheesy title puts his true potential out there for everyone to see. Of course, it's early yet. Who knows what's next for Joe Hill, but maybe NOS4A2 is but another glimpse (although an amazing freaking glimpse) of even greater things on the horizon. Naturally, when I first read the title I was kind of put off. Like Horns, the title just seemed too cutesy. 

-- (Brief aside: Is it just me or does everything these days have a crummy title or a title that just seems kinda dull? Doctor Sleep? Sounds like a cheesy 1970's comic book villain. 13? I get that it's a cool number and synonymous with bad luck but it's your nineteenth album! And Death Magnetic? Worship Music? World Painted Blood? Now What?! I'm not insulting the works, but can't we all agree that a little more time spent on coming up with a title is okay?) --

I mean, if you are going to name your book something so silly then you better bring your A-game to the field. And Joe does. I won't say he's the next Stephen King because I don't believe in things like that. I don't read Joe because of who his father is. In fact, one of the reasons I steered clear of Joe for a bit was because of who his father is. No one deserves to be judged like that. If I approached a Joe Hill book I wanted it to be because I wanted to read a Joe Hill book and not because I wanted to read a book by one of Stephen King's sons just to see how they compare. That's just unfair, IMO. Like comparing Barry Sanders to the son of Barry Sanders without ever having seen the son of Barry Sanders play a down. Does that make sense? 

But holy hell does Joe Hill really get his father's work! I don't know if this was intended as an homage to the IT universe his father created, but it feels that way at times (while also standing firmly on its own two feet, of course). There's even an evil car that would make Christine jealous! Joe Hill is simply a beast wordsmith. He confronts the Stephen King shadow hanging over him with an ease and confidence and his mastery shows in his artful execution. He is his father's son and has some of his father's talent for description of everyday people and the macabre, but there's something there that is all Joe's and it is every bit as good as his father's, too.  

Some Joe Hill fans (and maybe some SK fan, too) might be put off by the SK-vibe of the whole thing and the SK-length of the book (600 plus pages!), but I don't have a problem with it. It's actually a welcome addition and as long as Joe tries to maintain a sense of individuality in his writing, there's nothing this guy can't do without at least having some measure of success. If he keeps putting out excellent fiction than he is going to find himself rocketing up my list of favorite writers. In fact, this book alone puts him up a few spots. 

Have I told you what it's about? Do I really need to? It took me a month to read this hefty tome because of work and such, but this book is like a fine wine because it ages well and deserves to be taken in slowly. And, damn, did that ever just sound like a sexual innuendo or what? 

Charles Talent Manx is a great villain with a great car and a great personality. He's over the top and kind of goofy but also chilling (and not necessarily in a Christmasy kind of way). At some point I had to remind myself that this guy sucked the souls out of small children with his car and hung out with a childlike rapist/murderer wearing a gasmask!

This book is a must read if you like horror (yeah, I know nobody likes that word anymore) or dark fantasy or just plain damn good books. Read it and experience the sheer brilliance of Joe Hill. 

Man of Steel

This movie was one of those I was apprehensive about seeing because the track record with Superman movies has been less than stellar. The first two films with Christopher Reeve were good even if they were campy as hell. After that, it's crap. Even Superman Returns was a bit of a miss although it was a slight return to the level of the first two movies. 

What first piqued my interest in this movie was Christopher Nolan's and David Goyer's involvement in the writing process. What almost killed my interest in the movie entirely was when I found out Zack Snyder was the director. I had previously only ever seen one Zack Snyder film and that was 300 and that movie left me feeling quite unimpressed. So I was tempering my expectations as I walked into the theater (not that I really had high expectations in the first place).

I was blown away. Almost literally. There are explosions galore in this movie. Even from the opening segments on Krypton there are explosions and epic fight scenes between Jor-El (Russell Crowe) and General Zod (Michael Shannon). Can you imagine Marlon Brando in a fight scene as Jor-El???? I sure as hell can't. 

At the center of this story though is Superman, played brilliantly by Henry Cavill. Honestly, I had to Google who he was when I got home, but Henry Cavill is by far the best Superman I've seen portrayed on film and I've made a mental note to keep an eye out for anything else he'll do. Cavill plays a Superman struggling to fit in in a world that is not his own. He struggles to find his purpose and his reason for being on earth and the allusions to Jesus Christ are fairly obvious. But not so much that you should be put off by that unless you are just really uptight. 

This is very much a somber (although action-packed) movie. You can easily see it as a descendant of Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Even the music is similar. 

There are two things that might irk some fans here or there, though. There is no campy humor to be had in this movie and the romance between Superman/Clark Kent and Lois Lane is not the same. Personally, I preferred the changes because campiness gets old very quick and the "she can't tell who I am with glasses on" thing was always the dumbest excuse for a disguise ever. In this movie, Lois finds out very quickly Clark's an alien long before she even knows his human name or that he is in fact "Superman." I like that change.

Superman's uniform is different, too. A bit of a modernization also to accompany Batman's armor-suit in the Dark Knight films. Because, let's be honest, if we saw a grown man wearing tights in public we'd laugh our asses off even if he really was a superhero who could travel faster than a speeding bullet. 

Kevin Costner plays Superman's human dad and he does just fine in the limited amount of screen time he has. Russell Crowe gets more screen time even as a dead guy thanks to some handy dandy Krypton technology and he certainly hold our attention well, but I think Costner's down to earth role added an extra layer of warmth to an otherwise somber movie. Costner was a great counterpoint to Crowe. And when both of your dads are Oscar winners you can't really go too wrong, can you?

This movie also made realize just how similar Batman and Superman really are. Both are orphans carrying an overwhelming sense of grief and dissatisfaction with the way things are in the world and if their life. And both of them seek to change it for the better. The difference is how they go about it. And, at least in this movie, I wonder if that difference is really all that much. 

In this film Superman doesn't stop petty thieves on the street or give public announcements about how stealing is wrong or what the benefits of being a stand-up citizen are. This is a more realistic Superman and not the 1950's do-gooder. Cavill is a Superman who is just starting out and trying to be a good leader, but he wants to keep himself in the shadows as well because he understands what would happen if the whole world knew that a super-powered alien was living right under their nose. This has always been a part of the Superman legend, but here it is much more pronounced and it's an integral part of the emotional struggle Superman faces. 

I'm sure there will be a sequel to this movie. I hope Henry Cavill comes back and I hope Lex Luthor isn't in the next one. Lex Luthor has been done into the ground and having Zod in this movie was a welcome relief, but let's refrain from introducing Luthor just yet. Yeah, he's a popular character, but enough with Luthor. Why not give Brainiac or Darkseid a chance to do some damage in the next movie?

As far as the Justice League is concerned... I don't want that to happen unless it retains the same attitude and emotional climate of movies like Man of Steel or The Dark Knight. We need a dark counterpoint to The Avengers or else there's no point in pursuing the Justice League at all. As things stand, I don't see Man of Steel as a prelude to anything other than a possible Man of Steel 2 and I prefer it to stay that way for now. 

At two and a half hours, this film continues in the trend of epic superhero movies but I don't mind the running length at all. I've seen Ben-Hur dozens of times and The Godfather is one of my alltime favorite movies. Two and a half hours is nothing to me. 

I've heard a few folks say that the film stumbles a bit toward the end with all of the epic action upon epic action sequences while there are fewer and fewer moments of characterization, but I don't really mind. I like a good long climax. Hell, everyone should.

Zack Snyder proved me wrong with this movie and I'm glad (although I would have loved for Nolan himself to have directed this). 

Bring on the next Superman movie! 

And go watch this movie! I caught the matinee, but I would have gladly paid full price. It's worth it. 

Black Sabbath - 13 (2013)

I've been trying to figure out just what I want to say about this album and how to describe why it is important to me that I finally have it in my hands right now. I was one of those pessimists who said that I wouldn't believe any of the rumors about an album happening until I was holding the damn album in my hand.

Well, here it is. At last. I wasn't born until 1990 so by all rights I can't say I've waited for decades for this album. I've only been a Sabbath fan since I was about 13 or so. Not even ten years, really.

I was even too young to remember when Metallica cut their hair and not even alive when my Stephen King books were released. I never understood or cared about the whole NAPSTER thing. The albums and books and movies that I consider to be the most significant to me are older than me. I admit this got me teased a bit when I was younger. Listening to Rush's New World Man on cassette on the school bus in 2007 wasn't really hip. Typically, I had more in common with teachers than a lot of students I knew in terms of taste in music or movies.

And I always memorized the things I really wanted to experience. Reading about Sabbath's history and studying it was the closest I could get to experience it. Each word was a treasure to me. It made me feel like I had more of a right to call myself a die hard Sabbath fan even though Sabbath had barely done anything at all during my lifetime. When someone said to me, "Hey, I saw Sabbath back in such-and-such year," when I was younger I'd nod and smile and be kinda pissed. Like it was somehow my fault to have been born in 1990 instead of 1964 or something like that.

Of course, it's silly to say things like "I was born in the wrong era." And that's not exactly what I'm trying to imply. I'm merely stating that the things I want to experience are things I can never quite experience in the way that others have. The converse is true as well, though. I have experienced something that maybe a lot of folks won't be able to experience.

And that is a new and possibly final Sabbath album I can enjoy for many years to come.

There is a lot of mileage between 1978 and 2013. 35 years. Out of all the shit Ozzy and Iommi and the others have gone through the fact that any of them are still alive is miraculous. The fact that they aren't all strapped into wheelchairs in some old folks home is even more miraculous.

In that time, both Ozzy and Sabbath had successes and several failures and missteps. Trust me, 13 does not damage Sabbath's or Ozzy's legacy any more than say Forbidden or MTV's The Osbournes did. If there is anyone who truly believes that this album will damage their legacy then they don't know shit about their Sabbath and Ozzy history.

This album features three old guys and one comparative newcomer who are doing what they like and doing it in a way that is obviously much different than the way it was done in 1975. It's 35 years, folks. If you say this album is nothing like Paranoid... then I'd say obviously you would be correct. Tell me, what were you expecting? Paranoid Part 2? This album could never in a million years be Paranoid Part 2 because it is impossible to create a sequel to a moment in time.

And that's really what it comes down to. There is no way anyone today regardless of how talented they are can recreate something that happened 35 years ago. When it comes to movies or books or anything really. Just like it's impossible to recreate a movie like Casablanca. Sure you can remake the story, but you aren't just dealing with subject matter or a stylistic approach; you are also dealing with the feeling of being in a moment of time and that feeling cannot be replicated unless you just happen to have a time machine handy. It's an organic thing and any attempt to replicate it is by it's very nature inferior. Lightning may strike the same place twice but never at the same time in the exact same pattern. You just can't copy that.

What's past is set in stone. 13 is not of the past and therefore it is made the only way it could have been made today. I just can't find it in me to compare it to this Sabbath album or that Sabbath album because the technology and the sound is so different. The only album you could really compare it to is maybe Heaven & Hell's The Devil You Know because they are at least of the same era.

Production-wise, I'd say this album is easily the best Sabbath has ever sounded. Ozzy struggles a bit, but he makes the best of what he has and it works pretty well in the context of the album. Ozzy's been struggling for years with singing, but Rick Rubin gets an honest performance out of him in the studio. While I do like some of Ozzy's recent cheesefest songs like Let Me Hear You Scream and I Don't Wanna Stop, I can say that just about every song here blows the last few Ozzy solo albums away. It's easily his best singing effort, solo or otherwise, since No More Tears.

Iommi is in top form here as we all knew he would be. In spite of his cancer diagnosis and subsequent chemo treatments, the man can still riff better than anybody else out there today. His solos are great, too. He's always been good at knowing when to play flashy and when to hold back and just keep riffing.

Geezer Butler may not have a signature riff to match N.I.B. or even Master of Insanity, but his grounding and pounding bass playing is a welcome blessing. Again, in case you slept through The Devil You Know, you can easily see that Geezer is still one of the greats at holding down the fort while playing outside the box and giving each song its own little flair.

Brad Wilk is good, too. He may not have the experience with Geezer or Iommi that Ward had, but he does a serviceable job. Could Ward do better today? I don't know. I don't know if he can still play. I know Ozzy struggles, but a lead singer can struggle and get away with it. That's why most of 'em aren't opera singers. The drummer doesn't just hold the fort, but actually builds it from the ground up. I know I would have preferred a Sabbath alumnus like Vinny Appice, Eric Singer, or Bobby Rondinelli, but I think that the Sab ones didn't do too bad with Brad Wilk. I'm just glad it wasn't somebody from too deep within the Ozzy camp.

If Bill Ward not being on this album really ticks you off then it wouldn't matter if they got the ghost of John Bonham on the skins, I suppose. But you'd be doing this album and yourself a disservice by ignoring it just for that. Wilk brings a swing to the album that it wouldn't have had otherwise.

Rick Rubin is another name that should be mentioned with this album. A fair amount of people claim he dropped the ball with Metallica's Death Magnetic and maybe he did and maybe he didn't, but that has nothing to do with what he did with Black Sabbath. Apples and oranges, folks. 13 is the best production a Sabbath album has had since Martin Birch produced 1980's Heaven and Hell.

It's a sleek and pristine album. No, it doesn't quite have that us-against-the-world desperation of the first few Sabbath albums, but then if you're in your mid-'60's and you still feel that way then chances are that you'll probably drop dead from a stress-induced heart attack very soon. If you haven't already.

This is an album by a group of guys who are getting together for what could possibly be one last hurrah. And they are having a little bit of fun playing around with their past works, too. The rain at the end of Dear Father and the re-write of Planet Caravan in the form of Zeitgeist are all nice nods to days of old. Maybe it's a little cheesy and the more pessimistic among you might consider it to be more of a blatant "cash-in," but if so then I'd say you really shouldn't take things so seriously. No, this album isn't worth waiting 35 years for, but then again nothing short of a soul mate or peace on earth or the second coming is worth waiting that long for. Get over it.

Time will tell how this album holds up, but this isn't the 1970's and these bizarre things called rock n roll and heavy metal are way out of their infancy. What made Paranoid so groundbreaking now looks almost mundane by the sheer passage of time. I highly doubt that the Sab ones thought that so many would try to follow in their footsteps and branch out to form this burgeoning genre called metal. Nothing is quite so  legendary anymore. 35 years and countless Sabbath clones and homages later... 13 is not quite so groundbreaking and if you want this album just for that then you'll be disappointed.

But if you want some good tunes that recall days of old while mixing with the sound of the new then you couldn't go wrong with 13. It's a good addition to the Sabbath catalog and easily their best since Mob Rules. And much better than Technical Ecstasy or Never Say Die. Of course, just about every other Sabbath album is better than those two anyway.

It's new Sabbath, people, and God bless the Sab ones for making it happen.


Friday, June 14, 2013

Photo Kano (Foto Kano)

Having legally streamed the first ten episodes of Photo Kano on Crunchyroll (the site for legal anime streaming, of course), I think I can successfully state my opinion of the show without having to see the final to episode of the season (or show if the powers that be choose not to make another season). I stated earlier in my "Anime for 2013" post that Photo Kano seemed a bit too dull and safe. It wasn't over the top funny or as dramatic as it could be. Instead the show just started on autopilot for the first two episodes and I felt the show must surely be building to something, but I didn't have a clue what.

Then episodes five and six come around and the anime takes a serious turn from the better. The pantyshots and the dealings with the Photography Club are kind of put aside and a real plot begins to form. Rather than taking an entire season to pussyfoot around their feelings, our protagonist Kazuya Maeda and Kazuya's childhood friend Haruka Niimi admit their feelings and form a relationship. This is something that rarely happens in anime so I was fairly impressed. This show could legitimately be one of the great ones if this keeps up, I thought, just before I saw the ending of episode six. I was curious as to just what the show would do for the rest of the season, though. My gut told me that there would have to be something to keep Kazuya and Haruka from just walking off into the sunset like that. Something had to happen and I knew that because the ending of episode six oddly felt like the last episode of the series even though it wasn't. And the preview of episode seven didn't really gel with what I had just watched.

Something was definitely up.

Then I realized just what: This show was an adaptation of a dating sim.


Okay, maybe that is a little bit overdramatic, but I was a little irked. Essentially, the show is set up to where you can see what would happen if Kazuya had chosen a different path and chose to date any number of the girls. While Haruka Niimi gets two episodes dedicated to her, all of the other girls get an episode a piece. So the first four episodes more or less serve as introductory episodes to each of the different realities. Basically every girl seen during the main credits gets their shot at dating Kazuya.

While I do think the show is watchable and at times even pretty good, I just don't like the format of the show. I read that this show was the spiritual successor to shows like Amagami SS, but Amagami SS actually took four episodes to build up the relationship with each girl before resetting. I think I would have preferred that to the super short "one episode arcs" that comprise the bulk of Photo Kano (and yeah, one of the girls does get two episodes, but even then two episodes does not quite cover it).

I think shows like this require growth. However, I don't think all the growth in the world could make me like the whole "wax on/wax off" approach the show takes. In each reality Kazuya takes a different girl, but we don't see how his choice affects the girls that he did not choose. In fact, the other girls are almost not even mentioned or shown. Yeah, we see how his choosing them positively affects them, but how does it negatively affect them when he doesn't choose them? And the girls just fall for him way too easily. Kazuya must be one smooth dude considering who his friends and potential girlfriends are, but even then it takes more than a smile and one awkward encounter to win a girl's heart. Not that I'd really know anyway. Maybe it's the camera that does it. In that case, I need to buy a damn camera quick.

I want some chaos, too. All this lovey dovey stuff gets old after you see a different girl with him each time after so many episodes. Maybe one of the last two episodes will feature a girl that tells Kazuya to take a piss on some power lines or something. Not quite sure just how true this show is to the dating sim it is based off of, but there should always be some rejection somewhere if this dating sim is indeed actually trying to "simulate dating."

Of course, it's just a lighthearted TV show and I suppose that there really is nothing wrong with little bit of easy viewing concerning the road not taken.

But if you want more from this show then some easy viewing you just won't get it. Episodes five and six are as close as you get to that and they are pretty good, but the rest of the series doesn't live up to what came before.

The real question is whether or not I'd recommend this anime to anyone.

And the answer to that is... maybe. I mean, it's an average anime. As such it wouldn't be first on my list of shows to watch and it wouldn't be first on my list of shows to avoid. 

But hey, it's on Crunchyroll right now if you want to watch it yourself. 

I will watch the final two episodes. I doubt my opinion will change, but I don't actively dislike the show so that's not really a bad thing. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

To Be Forthcoming...

So I've got a backlog of stuff I want to post this June, but I just haven't had the energy to do it. And if I don't post some of it then stuff will keep backing up and I won't get anything done this month. 

I was going to post a review of Black Sabbath's 13 and Deep Purple's Now What?! but I still haven't figured out exactly what I'm going to say. Plus I haven't listened to them enough to really describe them in a way that justifies how I feel about them. I also plan on posting a "Worst to First" list of The Beatles, but I forgot about Let It Be... Naked and Beatles For Sale. So I need to find 'em and give 'em a listen. 

I also plan on doing reviews of InuYasha and InuYasha: Final Act (I'll probably do those two in one entry), Man of Steel (which I plan on seeing this weekend), and Joe Hill's NOS4A2

And reviews of Photo Kano and Mysterious Girlfriend X (which I just got on Blu-ray) will also be forthcoming. 

That's what I have on my plate blog-wise.

So I'm not sitting on my butt doing nothing, honest. 

Well, mostly honest. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Anime for 2013

In spite of my love for all things anime, I really have not posted about new anime in the works. I usually just post about shows I've watched or shows I have on my wish list.  Well, here is a short list of shows I have on my radar. There are certainly others, but these are the ones I'm more interested in and I feel are deserving of a place here. Again, please keep in mind that I have not seen more than one episode of a few of these shows. This list is not a definitive judgement on any of these shows. I'm mostly going off what I see from plot summaries and news announcements and artwork. So, if you find yourself intrigued, then by all means check 'em out. A lot of shows can be streamed for free on CrunchyRoll or Funimation. They're in Japanese, of course. Far too new to be submitted for dubbing. 

The Devil is a Part-Timer - Imagine Satan being forced from the Underworld into modern day Tokyo where he finds himself devoid of almost all of his powers and his demonic form. Imagine Satan having to work in a fast food restaurant (MgRonald's) while his general Alciel (also a powerless human now) tries to find a way for them to reclaim their lost magic and escape from this bizarre place called earth. If that doesn't draw you then I don't know what will. Just the thought of Satan flipping burgers... if the first episode is any indication then this should be a great situational comedy with some potential for great drama and possibly more great action.

Ghost in the Shell Arise -  This is a four part movie series that is a reimagining of the Ghost in the Shell series. Basically the characters look different and the voice-acting is different, too. Not quite sure what purpose this will all serve, but some franchises have succeeded rather well after a makeover. We'll see if this is the case or not.

Flowers of Evil - This could very well be the "love it or hate it" anime for early 2013. Mostly for the animation style. They filmed the series in live action and then went back and animated the segments. So this anime has a bit of an ugly but realistic look. I mean, Japanese people actually looking like Japanese people? It's unheard of! I honestly don't know much about the story, but it's said to be a kind of creepy one. I believe it is about a highschool kid who gets caught taking the belonging of a student he really has a crush on. After that, I'm not sure. I'll give the first episode a shot and see what's what, but I think this one could be one to watch out for.

Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet - Ah, those mecha anime shows. Either you love or hate 'em. This one certainly has the strangest title of any mecha I've ever heard of. I'm not sure how strange the story is, though. Essentially it is about a boy named Ledo who has known nothing about war all of his life and gets transported to this strange land called earth where everything is so different. Gargantia is a city of ships on this bizarre planet and it is there that Ledo awakens after being hurled through a space-time rift. 

Space Battleship Yamato 2199 - I've heard that this show is even more Star Trek-ish than Mobile Suit Gundam was. Naturally, the year this show takes place in is 2199 and the human race has been crushed in a war with some alien species and now live in underground cities. A lot of the scientists claim that humankind will end in 3000. Bummer, right? But there is hope. A mysterious capsule is recovered and this capsule claims that a planet far away has the technology to destroy the alien douchebagsThis is where the Space Battleship Yamato comes in. They are the ones entrusted with getting this technology but they only have one year to do so. Can they do it? Again, it sounds like something out of Star Trek. I think it could be worth a watch depending on just how they handle the show and the characters. 

Attack on Titan - I've heard that this show is in the vein of The Walking Dead. That is enough to intrigue me, but story is not about zombies. It is about giants. The seven story tall giants drove humanity to near extinction because they just loved to eat people. Move over Purple People Eaters! 

A small group of humanity has managed to survive by building a big-ass wall (even bigger than the tallest of giants) around the city. And this population was left in relative peace for about one hundred years. Then Eren and his foster sister Mikasa watch the city crumble around them as a super giant appears out of thin air and the smaller giants flood the city in its wake. After seeing their mother get eaten alive, Eren vows to kill every last giant. 

Sounds like a mecha show to me. I don't know for sure but I think it'd be pretty hard to kill a giant without a big-ass robot handy. 

The Severing Crime Edge - Haimura Kiri is a boy who loves to cut hair and he has a pair of scissors that have been passed down from generation to generation. This particular pair of scissors is a called "Dansai Bunri no Crime Edge" and it is the only thing that can cut the hair of the hair queen. Mushiyanokouji Iwai is the girl known as the hair queen and she cannot cut her hair because her hair is cursed. When the two of them meet, an old game is sparked and the purpose of this game is to kill the hair queen using "killing goods."

I personally have no idea what the hell any of that means, but it sounds interesting. I think it is supposed to be some kind of dark comedy or maybe a romance. It certainly sounds weird and that means it has to be right up my alley.

Photo Kano - I've seen the first episode streaming on CrunchyRoll and my initial response is kind of lukewarm. There could be something here, but I see myself giving it only a few more episodes before I decide to stick with it or drop it. It's about a guy named Kazuya Maeda who gets a Canon camera from his dad. With this camera, he suddenly finds a freedom that he's never had before. But there are also untold perils to be cautious of. One of them is the Photography Club that delights in taking erotic pictures of the female students. Rather than joining the legitimate Photo Club (comprised of mostly women) to take pictures of rivers or scenery, Kazuya finds himself involved with the Photography Club. Naturally, this should provide some interesting conflict between him and his female friends, but I just don't really know what to make of this show. It looks like a harem and it sounds like a harem so it is probably a harem, but it seems a bit too serious for that. I also don't get any vibes from any of the female characters just yet. It just seems bland to me. It's either failing at being funny or not quite sure how serious it wants to be just yet. Like I said, I'll give it a few more episodes.

Inu to Hasami wa Tsukaiyo - Weird concepts are a bit of a norm for anime (not that you haven't noticed this already, right?) and this one might or might not take the cake, but it's got to come close. This show is going to center around a boy named Kazuhito Harumi who is obsessed with reading. Unfortunately for Kazuhito, he is killed one day in a robbery and then he comes back to life in the form of a dachshund. That's right, he's a dog now. As a dog he is unable to read, but that isn't the worse thing. His owner is Kirihime Natsuno, a sadistic novelist who uses scissors to abuse poor Kazuhito. This show is billed as a mystery comedy and it was only recently announced so there's nothing available beyond a short trailer. It looks interesting, I'll say that. Eat your hearts out PETA.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I gotta admit this was kind of a tough anime to watch, but I think it is really well done and it made me think a bit. I mean, this is one of the very few shows to actually inspire me to want to read the manga. That either says a lot about how good it is or a lot about how good I just think it is. Doesn't matter much to me what other people think of it because this particular show just struck a chord with me.

The music is kinda bland and the animation isn't striking, but I think the story is a good one even though it has been done before: Insecure-guy-meets-popular-girl isn't exactly an original concept, FYI. What makes the show stand out is the sense of realism I felt while watching. The male lead was nerdy but not too nerdy. Sure, a lot of the drama comes from his stupid decisions, but he's not a complete failure as a human being. He's just a bit confused and with a girl like Suzuka it's easy to see why. 

The female characters look at first glance like your usual harem characters, but this show doesn't exactly fit the harem vibe. Yeah, there are some nude bits early on during the series, but it's played down a lot compared to the manga. This show is character-driven and primarily a romantic drama. The comedy bits are there, but they aren't overdone like they would be in a harem anime. The comedy was more of that awkward variety that you'd find in everyday life. Especially if you have vivid memories of school days. Sometimes it'll cause you to laugh out loud and at other times you'll wince and think, "Geez, that sounds like something I'd do." At least that's kinda how I reacted. 

Our main protagonist is a guy named Yamato Akitsuki and he's got a fascination for his new next door neighbor, a high strung chick named Suzuka Asahina. Suzuka is a high-jumper and a good one at that. She's held in high esteem by the jocks and the coaches. But Yamato is not a popular jock so he knows that he doesn't have a chance with her. She's just out of his league. 

What does he do? Well, he does whatever he can to get close to her.

But it doesn't all quite work out as well as he planned. Yamato is left desperate and heartbroken and decides he's going to do the unthinkable: he's going to join the track to just so he can spend time with her!

I don't want to spoil anything by going on about the show, but I will say that this show isn't quite the one trick pony it sounds like it should be. It's not all a bed of roses, either. At times it is just a little depressing and sometimes the insecurities of the characters can come across as overdone and drawn out, but I think that only adds to the sense of realism. After all, in high school everything is so much more important and everything else is practically the end of the world. In one case the world really does end for a character. 

This show uses sports as a metaphor for love and even life. Yamato's track races are more like distractions he can use as an excuse to think about his life. So if you want some thrilling sports action then this isn't quite up your alley. 

The series does offer some closure at the end. The drama that preceded the ending certainly warranted a bit of follow-up, I think. It could have gone on. The manga certainly does. 

The anime was received with mixed reviews and it is a few years old (almost a freaking decade!) so I doubt there will a be a follow-up. But it's worth watching anyway. 

Not quite sure how it will hold up to repeated viewings, but I can see myself watching it again.